The Role of an Elective Teacher in a PLC
A frequent question that surfaces when schools attempt to implement the PLC concept is, "What about the electives. Where do they fit?" If an elective teacher is the only person in the school who teaches a particular subject, we have suggested vertical teams (for example, the middle school band teacher teaming with the elementary school band teachers to create a strong band program). Another possibility is all the teachers of a particular elective area being released for district-teaming on a regular basis (for example, all the elementary school art teachers convening monthly to clarify what skills students should acquire, ways of assessing the skills, and practicing assessing actual student work to ensure consistency of standards).
Elective teachers can also look for connections with core curriculum teachers. The following letter comes from Susan Williams an elective teacher from Freeport Intermediate School in Brazosport, Texas who responded to an inquiry about how she "fits" in the PLC model at her school. Freeport is nationally recognized middle school featured in Whatever it Takes. Its principal, Clara Sale-Davis is an extraordinary leader, and Ms. Williams articulates the PLC concepts with exceptional eloquence. She has given us permission to share the correspondence with blog readers.
Rick DuFour Septermber 25, 2007
My name is Susan Williams and I am the Spanish teacher at Freeport Intermediate School. My principal, Mrs. Davis forwarded me the message that you sent her concerning the role of elective teachers in our continual journey for academic excellence. First of all let me thank you for taking the time to contact us with you questions. We are proud of our school, community and students and are always thrilled to hear from other educators who share our vision and interests.
We, the teachers at F.I.S. share a common goal. That goal is to do whatever it takes to push our students to the highest levels of academic, emotional and social well being. We learned many years ago, thanks to the outstanding leadership of our principal, Mrs. Davis that a common goal is met only through collaborative efforts. Teachers cannot work in isolation and expect school wide success in core subjects, electives, student behavior or extracurricular activities. Students must expect uniformity throughout their curriculum and their school day.
As to how I, as an elective teacher am able to impact the goal of our school in a positive way, it is simple. Through our weekly agendas that are placed in our boxes on a weekly basis, I stay informed as to the material that the core teachers are presenting and then find ways to incorporate it into my lessons. For example, at the beginning of the school year, I cover geography of the Spanish speaking world. In doing so, we label continents, major bodies of water and basic geographical features. It so happens that they are doing the same thing in 7th grade Social Studies only I do it with them in Spanish. By doing so, students receive constant reinforcement from two different teachers with different personalities and teaching styles. Additionally, they are meeting a part of the scope and sequence for high school Spanish 1. This same practice continues throughout the school year allowing me to not only teach in my content area, but to collaborate with other teachers on projects and interdisciplinary units.
I feel that it is my moral responsibility to help mold and create good citizens who are educated and understand how the world is interconnected. Collaboration is a perfect opportunity to do so. For example, two years ago, our school participated in a school wide interdisciplinary lesson on great inventions throughout history. In History, students researched inventors and inventions. In Science, students created their own inventions. In Language, they helped put together the research that was done in history class in narrative form. In Math, students researched the measurements and mathematical principles behind great inventions. In my class we researched great inventions such as the railroad that helped connect the Spanish speaking world to other industrialized nations. We then helped the Art department make etchings and prints of the inventions. Our awesome band learned about music that came about as a result of inventions or that had inventions as a part of their title or musicality.
On the day of the school wide presentation, our artwork was put on display; the history students acted out and or read the narratives written by the language students. Our band presented information about what they had learned about inventions and inventors and performed fabulous music. Then, as icing on the cake, our science students entered their original inventions into a school wide competition in which various winners were chosen in an after school science fair. Parents, district administrators and community members attended the presentation which was the culmination of a couple of weeks of lessons. We have done similar school wide units on immigration and jazz music.
Thus, through collaboration, communication and creativity, I am able to stay abreast of the academic climate of our campus and am able to help reinforce the core subjects and enrich what they are learning through the added material in my class. Lastly, I do not think of myself as an elective teacher. I am simply a teacher who happens to have a specialty area that others do not posses. As a result, I can do additional things that other teachers may not be equipped to do. For example, I tutor ESL students in writing and in any other way that helps the core teachers and other electives effectively teach students who are not proficient in English. As a result of this collaboration, ALL of our students excel.
I hope that I have been able to shed some light on the question that you proposed and I would love for you to be able to come and visit us here in Freeport and share in some of our Rowdy Redskin hospitality.
Spanish teacher F.I.S.